While his name might not be as big as Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, Don Mattingly is still an iconic New York Yankee. Donnie Baseball might not have won a World Series during his time in the Bronx, but he still captained the team and posted some impressive offensive numbers. The first baseman, however, ran into trouble during the 1991 season.
Although Mattingly was a key part of the Yankees roster, he found himself on the bench and fined during the 1991 campaign. His offense? Refusing to get a haircut.
Don Mattingly’s impressive baseball career
In order to earn a place in New York Yankees history, you have to post some pretty impressive numbers. During his time in the Bronx, Don Mattingly did just that.
After a dominant high school baseball career, Mattingly committed to play his college ball at Indiana State. The Yankees, however, still snagged him in the 19th round of the 1979 Major League Baseball draft; the first baseman ended up accepting their offer and signing with the club.
He cut his teeth in the minor leagues and, in 1982, made his big league debut. While Mattingly didn’t see much action at first—he was a late-season call-up that year and played sporadically in 1982—he eventually developed into a star. The first baseman batted .343 with 207 hits during his first full campaign; the following year, he stormed to the AL MVP award.
Although injuries eventually slowed Mattingly down and he never won a World Series title, he still earned a place in Yankees lore. The first baseman spent his entire 14-year career in the Bronx, eventually rising through the ranks to become team captain; in addition to his 1985 MVP award, he also claimed an AL batting title, nine Golden Gloves, and three Silver Sluggers. The Yankees have since retired his number 23 and given him a plaque in Monument Park.
Getting benched because of a haircut
During his time with the New York Yankees, Don Mattingly established himself as a legitimate star player. That status, however, didn’t except him from one particular team rule.
For better or worse, the Yankees have a personal grooming policy that limits how a player can and can’t look. While it’s most commonly associated with facial hair—each spring, we see new acquisitions have to shave their beards—it also extends to hair length. That’s where Mattingly’s issue arose.
As documented by Jack Curry in the New York Times, “the Yankees asked Mattingly to get a haircut,” as his hair was nearing his collar. The team captain was fined and benched until he visited the barber; while the situation caused some internal tensions at the time—there was talk of the first baseman leaving the Bronx—things eventually blew over. Donnie Baseball returned to the lineup and finished his career in the Bronx.
Don Mattingly’s hair cut experience has come full circle
That benching, thanks, in part, to a serendipitous coincidence on The Simpsons, has entered popular culture. As a manager, though, Don Mattingly briefly had his own personal grooming policy.
Shortly after taking over as the Miami Marlins manager, Mattingly introduced his own personal grooming policy, forbidding his players from growing beards. As documented by For The Win, though, that rule only lasted for a single season; after getting a feel for the team, Mattingly decided that his player could sport facial hair, as long it was “groomed.”
In 2020, we should be able to separate a player’s personal appearance from his or her on-field performance. It seems like Don Mattingly, after crossing Stump Merrill and Mr.Burns, has learned that lesson.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference